WHAT ANTARCTIC ICE SHELVES CAN TELL US ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING

Over the last three decades, the Antarctic Peninsula has undergone immense change. Researchers attribute this to both atmospheric and oceanic warming. One large effect of this is the collapse of the Larsen A Ice Shelf in 1995 followed by the break up of Larsen B seven years later. Researchers have now turned their attention to Larsen C, […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Over the last three decades, the Antarctic Peninsula has undergone immense change. Researchers attribute this to both atmospheric and oceanic warming. One large effect of this is the collapse of the Larsen A Ice Shelf in 1995 followed by the break up of Larsen B seven years later. Researchers have now turned their attention to Larsen C, as its neighbors (the large, floating ice platforms that form where the coastline meets the ocean), have met their demise.

Changes that cause thinner ice shelves make it more likely that they will break up, but they also lead to melting. It’s been known that freshwater from melting ice shelves flows into the oceans, contributing to rising sea levels. But scientists were not entirely sure how the oceans themselves contribute to the phenomenon of melting ice shelves, in part because the thick ice prevented larger vessels from accessing the ice shelf. So they headed back to the ice shelf to find out.

A team began the Weddell Sea Expedition to measure changes, especially chunks broken off from the larger iceberg A-68 to determine how the ocean impacts the ice shelves. The project produced the highest spatial resolution sampling in that location as of yet, and researchers were able to gain a better view of underwear conditions. Researchers learned that a mass of warmer foreign water had been mixing into the Larsen C Ice Shelf to mix with the colder water. That mixing allowed the warmer water to further disperse around the world.

With this knowledge, scientists have come to understand that changes which occur far from the Antarctic can impact Antarctic Bottom Water and Antarctic ice shelves. It also points scientists in a direction for future research. Computer models will need to be updated to include the complex relationship between warm ocean water, ice shelves, and melting freshwater. As they stand, these models fail to take that interplay into consideration, and thus those people and policies that rely on that information are missing a crucial part of the bigger picture.

Fortunately, members of the community that create models based on this type of oceanic activity are hard at work updating those models and creating projects that utilize this information, and climate science is likely to greatly benefit from it.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Well-Being//

    Global Warming Is Causing Desert Snow, Local Extinctions and Un-Seasonal Warm Winter Temperatures

    by Tammy Sons
    Well-Being//

    What’s Good for You Is Good for Our Planet

    by Dean Ornish, MD
    Community//

    Greening Our Faith

    by Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.